Reflections on a Successful Field Trip

Despite the long LONG drive yesterday, the late night and early morning, I surprised myself by staying fairly alert throughout the day. I had a few moments where I completely forgot what I was doing or where I was going, but aside from minor mental lapses and occasional clumsiness . . . well, anyway, I didn’t keel over or curl up under my desk to sleep. Lots of coffee and then a nap after work in which I kept getting interrupted by this or that. I hate that sudden lurching hot surprised feeling from being shocked out of a sound sleep.

Working on the photos from ComicCon, deleting some and tweaking others. I do enjoy digital editing, cropping and enhancing colour, etc. And going through them reminds me of some of the awesome things we saw and experienced.

There was a guy dressed as Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, and he had all the physical mannerisms and vocal patterns down to a “T” — one of my students thought he really was Jim Carrey for a minute! And it was astounding how he never once broke character throughout the weekend. Every time I saw him in the crowd, he was Ace Ventura. Fantastic! There were a couple of other absolutely dedicated cosplayers, such as the lady playing Effie Trinket (she’d hand-made both her costume and her friend’s, and they were gorgeous). I really admire that. ComicCon and FanExpo are basically fantasy-playgrounds for the highly imaginative. I’d love to be able to do that one day — come up with a really kick-ass costume and sink into the role for an entire weekend.

Watching my students’ reactions to the cosplayers, the vendors, the artists, the panelists, the celebrities and listening to their discussions afterward was entirely worth it, though. I heard them critically analyze the value of being an artist in this day and age, assess the effectiveness of workshops, rate the convention as a whole, and reflect on how well they did or didn’t budget their money. Whenever one of them scoffed (happily) at the idea that this trip was (air-quotes) educational, I reminded them that it really was, for all of those reasons. Maybe it connects to the concept of learning through playing, or maybe it’s being given small responsibilities within a framework. But they all concluded that it had been a valuable as well as highly entertaining (and even life-changing) experience.

I think, too, that if I organize another ComicCon trip next year (as many students are urging me to do), I’ll put together some kind of interactive game for them to challenge while they’re walking around. One or two were already doing that on their own — 17-year-old J decided he needed to take four photos with the 4th Doctor (different cosplayers) throughout the weekend, and he did it. 19-year-old B wanted to photo bomb as much as possible, but shied away after a while, even though it was fun (he has an absolutely perfect “soon” face). It would be neat to create a ComicCon / FanExpo scavenger hunt, or a BINGO card, asking the cosplayers or vendors to sign off on them as proof of completion. And I could provide a prize for the winner, like an event t-shirt. Just a little something extra, especially for the few individuals who were underwhelmed by the number of things to do that didn’t involve line-ups or vendors on the first day. Those few had expected more hands-on activities, I suppose. 18-year-old D thought it was more of a nerd-based merchant / trade show than anything else, and there is something to that. I was glad to see him attending many of the workshops and panels, instead of just sitting around. Anytime a student told me that they were going to an event, I told them how awesome that was, because it’s true.

But now it’s over, I’m compiling the photos and making copies available for some (especially our group shots around the DeLorean Time Machine and the TARDIS, and the groups who went with me to get photos with Paul Wesley and Billy Boyd), and I haven’t unpacked yet. I’m terrible at unpacking. It will honestly take me until the weekend. I have marking to catch up from last week, final numbers to submit and the bus bill to pay, plus keeping up with the lessons for this week. I’m contemplating booking a personal day next week, just to be able to get a day of quiet and rest after all this hustle. That’s something else — my proof copy of Crystal and Wand arrived, so I have to get moving on checking through both the pdf and the paperback. There just isn’t enough time for all of the things. Not at all.

If you’ve been following my journey of taking students to ComicCon in Ottawa, be patient — I’ll try to get a few  more pictures loaded tomorrow.

Double Post Day! Post 2: On Unicorns and Star Trek and Housecleaning

I thought about writing this post on how my second sick day went (very restful, thanks, but several panicky messages from my students on our class website. Still, my ear popped just now when I sneezed, so that’s something! And my head is much less stuffy. Hooray for feeling human again!) — I didn’t do very much, moving when I needed to, spending time handling our Beardie and petting the dog, washing my germ-filled bedding and sheets and then having a lovely nap, finishing Season 3 of Call the Midwife and crying during every episode… But that’s about it. I answered my messages and gazed out at the beautiful yet frigid winter day, twiddling my thumbs and willing my coughing and stuffiness to go away.

Which brings me to unicorns.

last-unicorn-movie

When I was an adolescent, I developed a love affair with unicorns which never quite faded away. The unicorn was the first animal I put real effort into drawing, using a How-To guide for sketching in a magazine, and I still use the basic concepts for drawing animals with hindquarters and forelegs, although I’ve never managed to get the nose quite right. Come to think of it, I can’t do that with humans, either . . . My hubby likes to playfully mock my love of unicorns, in the way that I playfully mock his Trek-ness. But the thing with unicorns is perhaps the same with Star Trek.

Star-Trek-TNG-Cast

I think that for both of us, it’s the symbolism of the thing that we like the most.

Both unicorns and Star Trek represent an ideal world. An existence that is as beautiful as it is mysterious, whether through magic or science (or, the combination of the two). Both are associated with adventure, taking chances, following dreams, and the power of the stars. Unicorns are mythical beasts that are known for being difficult or impossible to find; Star Trek is about encountering difficult or seemingly impossible situations and overcoming them. And there is beauty in both the beast’s form and the creatures that each crew of the Enterprise contacts in outer space. There is danger in both as well: with unicorns, if you’re neither virginal nor pure of heart, or even female (sexist things!), you run the risk of being impaled on the spot. With the entities and hostile aliens (or those who misunderstand the good crew’s intent), the risk of imminent death is the same.

death-by-unicorn

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I realized tonight as I was combing through pictures of Bearded Dragon vivariums and wishing that I could maintain my home as well as a 1950s housewife (sorry, Gran, I know you sigh at me), that I’m still pursuing that fictional ideal. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I can never live up to it, creating a cycle of guilt. I’m a hunter chasing a unicorn, believing that if I can just find that one magic being — that ideal situation — I’ll have the answers to everything and a glorious tale to tell. I thought that might be a difference between the myth and the science fiction/fantasy of Star Trek, but they too are seeking answers, and although they are to scientific questions, the answers are no less filled with implications for the meaning and workings of life. And occasionally, the answers are found, though not to everyone’s satisfaction, like that episode in which all the main species bring artifacts together to discover that they were seeded by a single origin species. The Romulans and Klingons were particularly perturbed by that news, as I recall.

ST-TNG_The_Chase

I think, too, that the unicorn is a mirage. It’s a false image built not out of heat waves and thirst, but from our need to believe in something untameable yet pure, perfect in design with its origins unknown, representing the mystery of creation and beauty in times of darkness and ignorance. Much of that description could fit Star Trek as well, coming out of the era of the Cold War as it did. It’s hope that something good still lives in unmapped territories, leading us onward in anticipation of discovery — an anticipation tempered by the understanding that if we actually do catch up with our quarry, some of the magic will be taken away. Still, we chase it, because to behold something so perfect even for a short time changes our understanding of our places in the universe.

At the same time, mirages are dangerous, building false expectations in the mind (and body) hungry for sustenance. A logical mind, balanced and nourished, understands what it is and what it does. The starved are only fooled into an endless and fruitless chase. We’ve seen examples of that both in unicorn stories, and in Star Trek. In real life, if I forget that my “unicorn” — a perfectly clean and organized house, with a beautiful display of books and memorabilia along with a workable desk and graceful vivarium — will only come through sustained effort and planning, if I keep chasing the beast without care or balance or understanding of how the mirage works, I’ll end up self-destructing. Fruitlessly sweeping up dust bunnies over and over without making any real progress. Lodged in a time-loop, walking in and out of the same room over and over without seeing any change or escape.

One final similarity between unicorns and Star Trek: in both, the pursuit of knowledge (or the symbol thereof) is undertaken by a team. Terrible things can befall the solitary wanderer, the lone hunter following glittering tracks, or the single officer (or Red Shirt, heh heh) in a shuttlecraft. To catch a unicorn, you need a team: the bait (innocent virginal maid), the nets (four strong men), a fifth to place the bridle, and the leader(s) (whoever is smart/dumb enough to try). To explore the galaxy, you need a team as well, a balanced gathering of intelligent individuals each with their own task to perform for the safety and expediency of the crew entire. (Here, my hubby — were he reading over my shoulder — would point out that Star Trek is eminently superior to unicorns for that very reason.) Therefore, if I want to achieve something close to my beast, I have to find a way to engage the whole household as a team.

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That’s always been my downfall, getting children and hubby to act in concert with me in cleaning and sorting. It always seems as though no sooner we get one room done that the day is over, we start the next, but the room that we’d cleaned and organized doesn’t last more than three days before lapsing back into chaos. The unicorn leaps, laughing at me, back into the wilds; the Enterprise gets thrown into a vortex while the bridge crew lurches in unison, and I have to start over with assigning chores and motivating and quite often, getting frustrated.

I’ve been thinking about approaching our home like a business and assigning chores, acting like a manager when I get home and have been managing classes all day.

I’ve also looked into Chore Wars, a promising site that uses chores as experience points and levelling-up. I should look at that again.

Still, she flashes her hooves and her horn glimmers from between the leaves. The ideal is so close, sometimes, I know I can get there if I can put just a little more effort in and get everyone — even the stubborn, unbribeable nine-year-old on board.